Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Digital Divide

Technology and education go hand in hand, or at least it seems like a good idea that they do. However, some kids are able to access things like computers and the internet, and others aren't. A New York Times article by Stephanie Olsen asks, 'Will the Digital Divide Close By Itself?'

Jim Steyer, chief executive of CommonSense Media and co-sponsor of the event, stressed that “every kid needs to be digitally literate by the 8th grade” and called for a major public education campaign to make that happen. He argued that technology and learning are synonymous and that schools, parents, and kids must get up to speed in the next five years.

Five years? Really? I don't think it can happen all that fast. Back when I was in school (the 80's to mid-90's), it used to be you hand-wrote your assignments. Somewhere along the line - I want to say grade eight or so - people would hand in their work typed up. Those people were the lucky ones, or keeners. My family still had a Commodore 64 at that point. Soon enough, some teachers began to request assignments be typed. Hand-written was frowned upon. Surely everyone could reach a computer. One of my teachers was fond of saying, 'beg, borrow, lie, steal' with regards to getting his demands filled. Back in the early days, I had to go to my friend Sharon's house. She had a computer and a printer. For a while we had a computer but no printer; we'd type things up, put them on diskettes, and my father would print them up at his office. People were impressed by laser printers back then. There was a lot of elbowing to get access.

Now it seems like there are laptops everywhere. I purchased my first laptop earlier this year, in March. It was a bit of a bend of finances to manage the refurbished one I'm typing this post on now, though I did want one that was also decent for gaming. Computers are such a big part of my life that when a fellow classmate handed my instructor a hard copy of her assignment, I was a little surprised. She could just e-mail it, after all. I'm spoiled, and I'm also younger than her by, I would estimate, at least ten years. E-mail was my first thought.

It really can't be easy for some families to have computers in the first place, or for kids to get time at their local library's computers. I am not an expert on the elementary/high school student's ease of access, but I do know it will take longer than five years to get laptops in every classroom.

Another thing I've noticed is that my handwriting has gotten worse since I started doing everything on my computer. I jot things down, I don't write, and I'm used to being able to click my cursor over to a mistake and redo it. My class notes are bordering on a scrawl with lots of bits impatiently scribbled out and sometimes I find myself wishing I'd brought my laptop.


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